Name Awards Professional Commentary on Company Names, Product Brands and Business Names

Red Hat names sure get your attention

RedHatLogoWhen the Unix Open Source movement started with Linx way back when, I immediately noticed all the companies springing up to commercialize it. That in itself was an interesting idea because how do you make money off “free” software was a big question in those days. Even then, before I transitioned into being a naming professional full time I noticed the names. Without doing some research I can’t tell what the others were, or even if they have survived. But I can tell you I remembered the name Red Hat from the outset, and it continues to jump out at me every time I see the name.

Interestingly enough, I have not seen (or noticed) the logo as much but I do have a vague recollection of once upon a time wondering why some guy was ambling around a trade show in a big trench coat and a red hat. This name is so simple, so evocative and so unusual, it really stands well by itself.

RedHatSocietyLogoCompare that with the Red Hat Society and their use of the name and logo. I had never heard of this name and had to research it when I did first encounter it. Of course, I am not a lady, and even if I was I am not sure I would have the personality to dress up to the hilt in red and purple to go to lunch with other ladies. But what do I know. You will recognize them at their own table somewhere someday, if you haven’t already, as they now they claim to be the world’s largest ladies social group. And yes, they wear big hats just like in their logo – and typically dress in red and purple too.

© 2013 – All rights reserved –

Isn’t Nome an interesting name?

NomegoldpanAs I write this column the Iditarod is in full running – in fact the first mushers just passed the halfway point. I love their tagline “The Last Great Race” as well. When it is just human, dogs and sleds in Alaska in Winter, then it really is a great race, especially as most teams will take over 11 days to complete their run, and few will have all 16 dogs left by then.

The race goes from Anchorage to Nome, which brings us to the name Nome. First of all, easy to pronounce once you see it, and nothing to do with gnome if you don’t. And almost every article I see on the town devotes a sentence or two to where the name came from. Most people now agree it was an accident. Someone wrote ?Name on a form in the space for town name. Someone else misinterpreted this as Nome and the rest is history.

Except that for a while during their gold rush it was called Anvil City, but there was some confusion with Anvil Lake not far away. So the post office rejected the name and they switched back to Nome to make sure they got their mail.

But don’t try to look it up on Google Maps and see how to drive there. First time I have seen Google’s phenomenal map service choke – there are no roads to Nome. You have to fly in, boat in or visit by sled dog or snow machine of some sort. Do look it up and see the Iditarod trail as all teams have GPS transmissions this year so we don’t have to wait three days for the news.

© 2013 – All rights reserved –

Do you know why Parktown Dental is a great and strategic name?

ParktownDentalI am preparing a new comprehensive article on why you should not name your business after yourself when I was reminded of this Dental Service I used to walk by on my way to the gym. Being a namiac even simple names like Parktown catch my eye – in particular because that was a suburb name where I grew up (a couple of continents away).

Thinking I might get a clue from the dentists’ names, I checked the small print of this basic facility in Fremont, California. The partners were called Espejo and Nguyen, if I recall properly, back in those days. I never did find out why they called it Parktown unless they got that name from some version of Monopoly or something, but that isn’t the point. What if they did not want to cater exclusively to Hispanic or Vietnamese clients? Especially as they were located in a neighborhood that is predominantly Indian, Chinese and Caucasian?

More than that, suppose I wanted to recommend them. Instead of saying you should see my Dr Nguyen (or Dr Tim as I might have said to help him get a new client in the door), I can easily say go see Parktown Dentistry. Just sounds upper/middle class and is so easy for everyone to grasp and remember. Why they picked Parktown is irrelevant.. it is simply a great change from the Dentist’s own names. And I have remembered it for over 10 years, even though my name brain database overflows daily.

And it has one more great benefit, as was proven in this case. Dr Nguyen is no longer with the group. But I am sure they still want his Vietnamese patients – and many more of all sorts of international backgrounds seen in Silicon Valley now they have expanded to Mountain View too. And certainly not only Hispanic clients, even though the principles are now Espejo, Mohica and Espejo. One is even a lady dentist, which some people (mainly idiots) don’t like. All this is hidden behind the great branding and marketing of Parktown. My hat’s off to you.

© 2013 – All rights reserved –

Xooming to new heights

XoomLogoThis past Friday Xoom executed on the ultimate branding event – going public on the stock exchange. As a regular user of the Xoom service, which beats the competitors by a mile, I feel remiss for not commenting on their name earlier.

Much as I like the name, I am surprised how many people hesitate over the pronunciation. Even though they know how to say xylophone and Xerox, for some reason they don’t immediately get that this name is simply Zoom with an X.

After many, many years in the naming business I continue to be pleasantly surprised about how the change of one letter in a name can make a big difference. Zoom is pedantic and common, but Xoom is unique and interesting. It doesn’t say “transfer money” like Moneygram implies, but then again it is a lot more appropriate a name than Western Union – as long as you haven’t grown up with Western Union as the brand for sending money.

And for all you software houses out there, don’t think of Xoom as just a way to send money to relatives. Think of it as a way to send money to off-shore contractors and vendors, especially those not wed to Paypal.

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Can the Frying Dragon fly? Or only as a restaurant name?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI couldn’t believe that Frying Dragon was a proper name for anything, but then found some restaurants (typically Chinese) called The Frying Dragon. Also I know we shouldn’t make fun of foreigners trying to do their best with this complicated language called English, but do you really think they intended to call these padlocks Frying Dragon brand and not Flying Dragon?

Please folks, use a professional language service or naming agency, or at least check your names in your target markets to avoid this kind of embarrassment. This is especially important when you want to move up from being an embedded or OEM product and go retail with your own brand.

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Both Events win Name Awards – Spartan Race & Tough Mudder

In the new world of he man sports obstacle racing is growing like gangbusters. When I was a young business professional we went and did the Lake Run or Zoo Run or went Reservoir Windsurfing. Today’s youngsters (and others) don’t have time for boring things like Ironman marathons, so the sport of Obstacle Racing is exploding.  Seems a lot like army training without the uniform and the dumb kommandant yelling at you. Plus this way you can shower off and go back to work on Monday morning.

Event naming, naming of sportin goods and clothingAnyway, two companies both claim to be the leaders in this sport: Spartan Race with its west coast origins, and Tough Mudder with its east coast (via some exBrits) origins. Both are well promoted and branded. Both are properly trademarked and protected – probably helped along by them both realizing early on the merchandising potential of their events, brands and goods. But which one has the best name, from a purely naming point of view?

Sports naming, equipment naming, event naming, sports product brandingWhat style of name would you have selected: Tough Mudder which is descriptive with the right sort of tough mother edginess, with instant recognition (in fact the name has been used for other events, like in trucking) or Spartan Race which is unique and tough sounding, but doesn’t explain much – and in fact taken literally Spartan could even imply threadbare and not Sparticus-like warriors?

For us the answer is very clear. Both these names are deserving of a naming award – in large part because they are unique names and not copies, nor are they boring very descriptive “ultimate obstacle events” names. Both stand out from the crowd. Both are unique enough to be legally owned and will develop good mind share  in short order.

Of course, like any event attracting such a following so quickly, the sponsors were sure to show up…  so we can’t blame Reebok for putting their name upfront. Maybe Tough Mudder will find a sponsor humble enough to play second fiddle. For example Tough Mudder by Firestone.

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Discover IT makes me want to scratch and itch.

DiscoverITWhen your name is relatively long, like in Discover, you surely do want a short second name for a product descriptor. But why something as lifeless as “it” unless you mean Information Technology – and we know that is not your game?

Imagine how much fun they could have with the word itch instead? Would solve everyone’s itch to go shop till they drop. Or at least something else with some character or image or motion or action or life or..

Great color, graphics and nice use of depth make for a good choice of imagery here. In fact, we may even get used to it (pun intended) especially if we ever see or know someone who actually has a Discover card.

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First-Class Mail is a first class trademark

Ever thought how government agencies, the military and the post office protect their names, taglines and service slogans? Well, it turns out they do just what all commercial customers do. They trademark them. So don’t try create your own international mail service, or even local priority service, or even some special shipping materials, and use the words “First-Class Mail”.

Yes, the US Post Office holds a number of registered trademarks on the usage of “First Class Mail”. Here is the first one, where they register it as the service we expect:

Typed Drawing

Mark Drawing Code (1) TYPED DRAWING
Serial Number 73001311
Filing Date September 18, 1973
Current Basis 1A
Original Filing Basis 1A
Registration Number 1094739
Registration Date June 27, 1978
Attorney of Record Sandra A. Riley
Affidavit Text SECT 15. SECT 8 (6-YR). SECTION 8(10-YR) 20080707.
Renewal 2ND RENEWAL 20080707
Live/Dead Indicator LIVE

In the USA they continue to provide phenomenal service at a great price. Let’s hope they can find a way out of their massive deficit dilemma as well all cut back drastically on sending letters and statements the old “snail mail”way.

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Yoga is a great name for Lenovo’s limber laptop.

Great name for a laptop computerLenovo has not done much new and different in the way of branding and promotion since their now long ago separation from IBM. This may have been intentional. Certainly the IBM cachet brand equity is a big base to springboard off.. and keeping it implicitly around may not have been a bad strategy (or accident).

However, the minute I saw the new ads for their Yoga multipurpose laptop/touchpad I knew they had nailed a great new name. You can tell this whenever you sense the ad and pr marketing people (even outside agencies) are having fun with the name. Such natural enthusiasm spills over into their creative work and consumers naturally sense it too – often making them natural participants or message carriers too. Just like me in this case.

Some of the engineers at Lenovo must have been having heartburn over the choice of such a consumer name, but luckily marketing prevailed. A cross over name that hits all the right notes is usually magic. And when they are trying to show how flexible, limber and stretchable a product is, what better name than Yoga could they possibly have come up with?

Now that I see the written materials, I see the full name is Ideapad Yoga. Booo is all I can say. Be brave, call it the Yoga like in the ads. Sure you have had the ThinkPad for so long the name is rusty.. and yes that was long before Apple had an iPad… but are you really a bunch of sheep? Aren’t you big enough to not have to follow Apple along?

© 2012 – All rights reserved –

Professional names can be fun too.

At this holiday time of the year, most people are not thinking about names, unless they are focused on where the name and character of Santa Claus originates. Compared with the long histories of the major religions of the world, he is a fairly recent addition. In fact, it is from the Dutch Sinter Klaus – my uncle Claus. Now, because of one Dutchman, we are all forced into an annual shopping frenzy.

So my wet, dreary, slow day was cheered up when I read about a top analytics firm that focuses mostly on China, and operates under the name Muddy Waters Research. Finally someone calls a spade a spade!

To quote their own site: “The Chinese have an old proverb, “浑水摸鱼” (muddy waters make it easy to catch fish). In other words, opacity creates opportunities to make money. This way of thinking has been part of Chinese culture for centuries, and it is institutionalized in the modern PRC.”

But I didn’t even need a quote to get the message. So much financial research is dealing with smoke and mirrors it is a wonder more people don’t work with this team to  peer through the murkiness.

© 2012 – All rights reserved –